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Design News - Blog - DIN rail basics

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DIN rail basics


Dean Norton, Product Manager Wieland Electric
Burgaw, NC
6/18/2001 Post a comment
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If you deal with electrical installations for industrial control applications, no doubt
you have heard the term DIN rail or have used DIN rail in your installations. Perhaps you have
even read an article or two regarding some of the products that mount on DIN rail, such as
terminal blocks or contactors. While much time has been spent educating customers on DIN rail
mountable products, very little time has been spent on the backbone of this system, DIN rail itself.
By gaining a valuable understanding of DIN rail applications in a control environment, such as
materials available, options, and foot prints, new and long time users of DIN rail can better utilize
this industry standard.

DIN, an acronym for "Deutsche Institute von Normen" or "German Institute of Standards", is a
worldwide standard ensuring dimensional uniformity for products regardless of the manufacturer.
DIN rail is the metal rail used to mount various electrical components (for example, terminal
blocks, motor starters, relays, circuit breakers, contactors, remote I/O, power supplies, etc..) in a
control cabinet. Since the rail is manufactured to DIN standards, end users can select DIN rail
mountable product from different manufacturers (for example, terminal blocks from XYZ
Corporation and contactors from ABC Corporation) and mount them on the same rail. This gives
the end user the freedom to specify the electrical components desired without concern for being
committed to a single supplier due to the mounting rail (Warning: be careful of using proprietary
mounting rails which do not conform to DIN standards). In addition, the use of DIN rail saves time
and space (no need to panel mount all components), as well as, provides a central location where
external and internal wiring can be connected quickly and efficiently.
MATERIALS
DIN rail is available in various base metals of which, the most common are steel, aluminum,
stainless-steel and copper. In addition, DIN rail is available in various finishes with respect to the
base metal. The most common base metal and finish combination in the industry is zinc plated,
yellow chromated steel. Zinc is less noble than steel and will sacrifice itself for the protection of the
base metal against the elements/corrosion. The yellow chromate protects the zinc plating against
wear and formation of zinc oxide. However, selection of metal type depends on the application.
When selecting a DIN rail with specific metal composition, several factors must be considered;
enclosure/control cabinet material, environment (usually already determined with the selection of
enclosure material), products to be mounted and short circuit requirements for grounding. For
example, if you have selected an aluminum enclosure, an aluminum DIN rail should be selected.
The aluminum enclosure was probably selected due to a corrosive or damp environment and
deviating from this material spec on the DIN rail could cause the exact situation (corrosion) you
were trying to avoid. Using dissimilar metals (aluminum enclosure and steel DIN rail) creates what
is called a galvanic cell which, can lead to galvanic corrosion. Galvanic corrosion causes eventual
deterioration of the aluminum enclosure and can cause electrical grounding problems. If mounting
heavy components, such as large PLCs, steel rail is the best bet due to its strength and durability.

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Design News - Blog - DIN rail basics

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And although all metal rails can be used as a ground busbar, copper DIN rail provide the optimum
in conductance for creating a path to ground. For a quick reference guide for specify DIN rail
metals see figure XXX.
FOOT PRINT
In addition to material specs, DIN rail is available in a variety of different footprints. There are
three main footprints available; TS-32, TS-35, and TS-15.

TS-32 (32mm wide) rail is commonly referred to as G, J or C rail due to its physical shape.
This rail was the first generation of DIN rail footprints and is known for the strength in which
it retains components on the rail. Many newer designs of DIN rail mounted components do
not accommodate this footprint or require an additional accessory item for mounting.
However, it is still used for mounting large PLCs, transformers, contactors, or power
supplies.

TS-35 (35 mm wide rail) is the industry standard. Most existing and new designs of DIN rail
mountable components incorporate this footprint. The TS-35 is available in two profiles, (1)
"The Standard" which is 7.5mm in height and, (2) "The High Hat" which is 15 mm in height.
The 7.5mm high rail is suitable for the majority of applications and is the most cost effective
of the two. However, when mounting heavy components such as large PLCs, transformers,
contactors, drives, power supplies, etc.. the 15mm high rail provides the added strength and
durability required.

TS-15 rail is more than half the width of both the TS-32 and TS-35 rail (15mm vs. 32/35mm)
and is used for mounting terminal blocks in confined spaces or whenever space reduction is
required. Typical application for the TS-15 rail would be in a small junction box.

When selecting a footprint, make sure that all the components specified accommodate the
footprint. A complete representation of all profiles/foot prints is shown in figure XXX.
MOUNTING OPTIONS
DIN rail is also available with or without mounting slots. Pre-manufactured mounting slots come in
two different configuration, standard (6.3 x 18mm slots) or long slots (5.2 x 25mm slots). These
pre-manufactured slots allow for quick and easy fastening of the DIN rail into the enclosure and
eliminates the need for a punching tool. Most suppliers of DIN rail offer custom punched holes to
customer spec as well. Additional value added services offered include, PEM stud mounted and
cut to length DIN rail (standard DIN rail lengths are 2 meters and 1meter). These services are
beneficial if you lack the tools required to punching and cutting rail or just want to reduce
installation time.
GROUNDING BUSBAR
With the use of a DIN rail ground (protective conductor) terminal block, the DIN rail itself can be
used as the grounding busbar. The following is an illustration of how the system works to create a
path to ground; the ground terminal has a metal foot that bits into the DIN rail, the rail is fastened
to the enclosure, and the enclosure is connected to earth ground. This system allows all control
components and their ground requirements to be placed on the same rail and in the same location
(a separate ground busbar is no longer required). The benefits of this include reducing installation
costs, saving panel space and allowing for quick and easy trouble shooting. When using DIN rail
as a ground busbar, particular attention must be paid to the short circuit properties of the rail.
Short circuit properties of the rail will depend on the metal material and the surface area of the rail
(relating back to foot print). A reference on short circuit properties of DIN rail and short circuit
calculation can be found in figure XXX.

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CONCLUSION
As you can see by now, there is more thought required to specifying DIN rail than asking, "Do my
components fit on this rail?" Using DIN rail in your next control panel design, can save time,
money and give a professional appearance to the job. However, some time must be spent
ensuring the best option to fit the application considering; environmental issues, galvanic
corrosion, short circuit requirements, and mounting options.
Metal Selection

Enclosure Metal

DIN rail Metal

Notes:

Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel DIN rail provides the optimum in


strength and corrosion resistance. However, it not as
cost effective as zinc plated steel or aluminum.

Aluminum

Anodized Aluminum

Anodized aluminum DIN rail is suited for humid


environments where zinc plated steel does not provide
the optimum protection against corrosion. However,
aluminum is not as strong nor as cost effective as zinc
plated steel.

Sheet Steel

Zinc Plated Steel or


Copper

Zinc plated steel provides the best solution for general


applications due to its strength, corrosion prohibitive
plating, and cost effectiveness.

Any material

Make selection based on application.

Poycarbonate or
fiberglass

Aluminum rail for damp environments.

Steel rail for standard requirements. Steel rail is


the most cost effective of all rails.

Stainless steel for optimum corrosion


resistance.

Copper rail for use as a grounding busbar.

Short Circuit Properties


Foot Print Type

Metal Type

Short Circuit Resistance =


Conductor mm2/AWG

Max. Short Circuit


current [kA] /1 s

TS35 (7.5mm)

Steel

16/6

1.92

Aluminum

35/2

4.2

Copper

50/0

Steel

50/0

TS-35 (15mm)

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02-10-2011

Design News - Blog - DIN rail basics

TS 32

TS- 15

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Aluminum

95/000

11.4

Copper

150/300(kcmil)

18

Steel

35/2

4.2

Aluminum

70/00

8.4

Copper

120/250(kcmil)

14.4

Steel

10/8

1.2

Aluminum

25/4

1.92

Copper

16/6

*Per UL 1059, mounting rails of a protective conductor terminal block intended to be connected to
a busbar designated as the protective conductor shall be of steel, copper alloy, or aluminum alloy.
Formula: S= Square root of l2 x t divided by k
S = minimum cross section in mm2or AWG
I = short circuit current in amperes
T = reaction time of switch-off in s
K = material coefficient
For more information, contact Dean Norton, dnorton@wielandinc.com, or call (910) 259-5050 or
(800) WIELAND, or Enter 544.

Enclosure and DIN


rail material selection
Enclosure metal

DIN rail metal

Notes

Stainless steel

Stainless steel

Stainless-steel DIN rail provides optimum strength and


corrosion resistance. Higher cost.

Aluminum

Anodized
aluminum

Anodized aluminum DIN rail is better suited for humid


environments than zinc-plated steel.

Sheet steel

Zinc-plated
steel or copper

Zinc-plated steel provides the best solution for general


applications due to its strength, corrosion prohibitive plating,
and cost effectiveness.

Polycarbonate

Any material

Steel rail for standard uses. Aluminum rail for damp


environments. Copper rail as a grounding busbar.

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